Motorists and residents can expect two years of traffic hell

DRIVERS and residents can expect over two years of disruptions after calls to bring in 300,000 tonnes of hardcore for a major new rail viaduct between Hitchin and Letchworth GC by train were rejected. Three options remain for delivering the fill necessar

DRIVERS and residents can expect over two years of disruptions after calls to bring in 300,000 tonnes of hardcore for a major new rail viaduct between Hitchin and Letchworth GC by train were rejected.

Three options remain for delivering the fill necessary to create a rail embankment on Green Belt land to the north of Hitchin station - all of them by road, after Network Rail said it would not be feasible to use the railway.

The company, responsible for the UK's rail infrastructure, plans to raise the Cambridge Branch Line over the East Coast Main Line where the two tracks meet to relieve one of the worst rail bottlenecks in the country. The �60m project is expected to last 27 months from September 2011 if planning permission is granted by the Department of Transport.

North Herts District Council, as a project consultee, asked Network Rail to investigate the rail option in the interests of residents. But in a report to the council, planners said a lack of network capacity, extended construction time and higher costs made it prohibitive.


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The council's transport policy officer agreed that the report "presents a robust case".

The remaining road options would see lorries arriving at the site from the A1M, either from Junction 9 - affecting the east of Hitchin and west of Letchworth GC, or Junction 10 - affecting the south of Stotfold, east of Arlesey and west of Letchworth GC, or one-way construction traffic from Junction 9 to Junction 10 via the A505, C109 and A507.

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Network Rail's preferred option is a 6.5km route from Junction 10 along the A507, Stotfold Road and Wilbury Hills Road.

'Exceptional' peak traffic would see 34 HGV journeys an hour along the route during a 10 hour working day from 8am. This is expected to last for two weeks during the construction period. Network Rail also expects there to be a period of nine weeks when there will be 26 HGV journeys an hour. Outside of these times lorry activity is expected to drop from between six and 26 an hour.

Alan Hinchcliffe, 70, chairman of Hillcrest Park residents' association which has campaigned against the Wilbury route being used, said: "Willbury Hills Road is an unsuitable width. The road used to be just a dirt track - it's not what I would call a highway. It's going to be horrendous. What chance have we got? We are going to be an island."

The plans will be discussed tonight (Thursday) at a meeting of North Herts District Council's planning control committee. Officers have recommended that councillors drop earlier objections to the plan on Green Belt and environmental grounds, but maintain objections on traffic management grounds because of a lack of detail.

A public inquiry into the proposals will be held at the Spirella Ballroom in Letchworth GC on May 11.

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